When a famous person passes away, the circumstances surrounding their death aren’t discussed as much as their contributions to the world. Sure, Elvis Presley died a horrible death on a toilet, but we don’t talk about that nearly as much as we talk about his music.
Every once in a while, a person dies in such a strange way that it almost overshadows their entire legacy. That’s what happened to Isadora Duncan. This legendary dancer had a fruitful and wonderful career, but her unexpected death shocked the world.
Though the exact date of her birth is contested, Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco in either 1877 or 1878. She grew up poor after her father, a banker, was caught participating in illegal dealings.
As a young adult, Isadora rose to fame as a dancer. Rather than conforming to the traditional ballet techniques of the time that she found constraining, Isadora traced her style back to the art form’s spiritual roots.
She took inspiration from ancient Greek poses and added a distinctly American flair.
Duncan was also known for challenging the social mores of the day. She was bisexual, an atheist, a communist, had two children out of wedlock, and spent time with groundbreaking occultist Aleister Crowley.
Here she is with her husband, a Russian poet named Sergei Yesenin, who was 18 years younger.
When Duncan was in Nice, France, on September 14, 1927, she was a passenger in a French-made Amilcar while wearing one of the long, flowing scarves that she was known for. This one in particular was silk and hand-painted, given to her by her friend, Mary Desti.
The scarf, tightly wrapped around her neck, got caught in the open-spoked wheels and rear axle of the moving vehicle. She was thrown from the open car and broke her neck, killing her instantly.
Duncan was just 50 years old when she died, a Soviet citizen at the time, and her death shocked the world.
What a tragic end to such a beautiful career. Let’s hope future generations remember Isadora for the incredible, unconventional life that she lived, and for her incomparable contributions to the art of dance.
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